Parashat T’rumah

Friday, February 4, 2022/3 Adar I, 5782
Parashat T’rumah Exodus 25:1−27:19

Dear Friends,

After receiving the Ten Commandments from God, the Israelites are hard at work to create a sacred community of justice and compassion. They have now been living in the wilderness for months. Although the Torah gave them guidelines to help them settle into community, God understands the need for a physical holy space to which they can all contribute. This week’s Torah portion, Terumah, outlines God’s request for them to build a Tabernacle.

“Tell the people to bring Me gifts,” God says to Moses, “You shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart moves him.” (Exodus 25:2)

As we learn later in the Torah, the Israelites respond to this request so enthusiastically that they donate more than the project even requires. They contribute both goods and the work of their hands.

This is the first time the Israelites are working together to create a building that is their own. They instinctively know that a building is about far more than the metals, fabrics, and ornate designs that compose it. It is about the people whose individual gifts enable its creation. Each person contributes in their own way, and we are better for it.

In our portion, God says, “Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” (Exodus 25:8) God does not say that the people should create a sacred space so that God can dwell in it. God does not reside within four walls; God dwells among us. The Tabernacle was not important because of its beauty or its physical space. It was most significant for how it allowed the people to come together and generously give of themselves.

Our Temple has a beautiful building, one to which many of us are looking forward to returning next week. Our greatest asset is not our sanctuary, classrooms, or our technology. It is in all the people who have helped create a holy community.

It feels fitting that we will end Shabbat tomorrow night with a Havdalah program entitled “That’s So TBE.” Our resident historian Angela Romero will tell stories about the many gifts people brought to TBE in the 1920’s. Each month we will focus on another decade of TBE history.

Whether through financial contributions, volunteerism, your presence, and your insights, know that your gifts to Temple Beth El are appreciated. More than that, they help us to create a community so holy that we can feel God’s presence among us.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Cassi Kail